MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Recognizing the world is not just shades of gray, Handspring Inc. is rolling out Visor Prism, a color-screen model that extends its popular electronic organizer line.
While acknowledging arriving late to the game with a color model against such competitors as the Palm IIIc and the iPac Pocket PC from Compaq Computer, Handspring executives contended the 16-bit, $449 Visor Prism will be the best on the market, capable of producing more than 65,000 colors.
That's more than 16 times better than its closest rival and is likely to drive new development of software applications for the Visor's Springboard add-on slot, capable of turning the organizer into an Web-access device or gaming console.
Analysts say providing a color option to consumers will be essential in coming months as competing companies position their personal digital assistants, or PDAs, as more than storage devices for names, addresses and calendar functions.
Visor, which licenses Palm's operating system, has become a popular alternative because of its Springboard expansion slot. Modules now coming to market can turn it into everything from a digital camera to a cellular phone to an MP3 player.
The Prism is 1.5 ounces heavier than its Visor monochrome predecessors, at 6.9 ounces but has a faster, 30 megahertz processor. The Prism has 8 megabytes of RAM and uses an updated version of Palm OS. It also includes a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery, because color screens drain batteries faster. The battery lasts about six hours in continuous use, or two weeks for occasional use before needing a charge in the docking cradle.
Still, competition in the market is increasing. Sony is expected to release a color hand-held next year. And, to remind consumers its product is still out there, Palm announced that effective today it is dropping the price of the Palm IIIc to $329, from $399.
A Palm promotion scheduled to run through Jan. 8 also tosses in free goodies, including three color styli, a luggage tag and a CD-ROM containing games, an e-book reader, drawing program and reminder functions.
Palm's IIIc has been panned by some analysts because it can show only a meager 256 different colors at a time, which makes some photographs look grainy. The 12-bit iPac and other Pocket PC products support slightly more than 4,000 colors.